by: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn defender Kathya Mendez chases down a ball in the first half against the Liberty Falcons Saturday at Woodburn High School. The Bulldogs lost 5-1 in the play-in contest to mark an end to the teams 2013 season.With a 5-1 loss to the visiting Liberty Falcons Saturday, the Woodburn girls soccer team closed the book on the 2013 fall season.

The Bulldogs (7-7-1, 3-3-1 Mid-Willamette) returned to the postseason for the fourth time in five years seeking to advance to the 16-team tournament bracket after getting ousted in the first game of the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Liberty (6-8, 4-3 Northwest) was the fourth-place team out of the Northwest Oregon Conference. The Falcons started the season with a 3-1 against No. 9 Hillsboro (6A), but went on to lose six of their next seven games before rebounding with a 4-2 record over the final three weeks of the season.

The game was a match between different styles of soccer. Woodburn’s methodical, control-based offense was not enough to combat a Liberty team that featured several quick forwards who repeatedly beat the Bulldog defenders. “They had some fast girls,” said Woodburn coach Carlos Menezes. “We just play possession ball so well, but we could not play the possession game on Saturday. We’re probably one of the most technical teams in the state, without a doubt, but sometimes athleticism overwhelms that.”

Despite the loss, Menezes was proud the team had put together an impressive resume this season and got to host their first play-in game in years.

“We have a competitive team now,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that Woodburn is not an easy team (that it was) 10 years ago.”

The Bulldogs feature a talented class of eight juniors that showed marked improvement over last year’s team and can continue to get better with proper conditioning and training over the offseason, Menezes said.

“I think it can be a very good team if there is commitment,” said Menezes. “We need to come in the beginning of the season and be already in physical shape.”

If the Bulldogs can add speed and athleticism to a team that is already strong when it comes to ball control, Woodburn can set its sights on getting even further in the playoffs in 2014.

“We try to play the possession game because I not only think it’s the right way the game should be played, but also the only way we can play,” said Menezes. “We can’t play the kick and chase game, because we don’t have the speed to do that.”

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